Lots of levels with each level being very different, connected through a map a.k.a. Baldur's Gate or Fallout
I would prefer this option if it is used to tell a deep involving and interesting story. (I believe it is easier to to this with levels than if a player just wanders around freely in a large seamless world.)
If you do it right (cut scenes) you can create much stronger feelings since you control how you present the world to the player. In a seamless world where the player wanders around at will you loose a bit of control. (You can still show cut scenes.)
Levels that are very different can give us something to look forward too. Give us something new to admire from time to time. This can keep the game interesting graphics wise till the end.
At least I get bored if I have to walk the same way many times in a seamless world. Transportation in World of Warcraft is very annoying. It is very nice to fly over an area once or twice... but not every time you travel... just to avoid a loading screen. I'd rather just travel by map. (Lets go on a quest together... 15 minutes later you are still on your way or waiting for others.)
Levels could be adjusted/populated at loading time to represent different stages/directions of the story. Or the level could be adjusted according to current quests. [Guild Wars does it this way in it's instances.] Inform the player about changes in the level through cut scenes.
With a seamless world it could be much harder to achieve this in a believable way. (e.g. An army moves in to besiege a castle. It is easier to just place them in a level at loading time [+cut scene] than letting them gather and move to the castle while the player is watching them. Or even worse just let them spawn out of fresh air while player is watching.)
If the story requires time to advance you can use the 'travel times' between levels. This is fast but still believable. It is just a click away on the map. You can show a cut scene "two months later" with the hero on a ship in rough weather catching the first glimpse of the land he is traveling to. (Or the above example with the army besieging a castle.)
With levels and a world map to travel you don't need teleport stones. Teleport stones could easily break story/quests as the player can travel to any place he has visited before and dropped a teleport stone (as he knows that this will make a quest easier for example). With levels you have defined enter and exit spots for the player. (Exit spots only if the player needs to reach them to activate new areas on the map. Later he can just use the map.)
You can have quest givers and areas to do the quest far apart since they are only a click away on the map. In a big seamless world you either have to have quests taking place in a small area or give us means of teleportation. (Or have us take long walks.)
I could imagine that it is far easier to test a Level with a defined setting compared to a seamless world.
A short loading screen is ok for me. Show different artwork to keep it interesting.
Levels can vary in size. But don't make them too small. There can be (random) travel encounters on small (randomly created or a few hand crafted) levels or some story elements being told on small (hand crafted) levels. But on the other hand the swamp with a few imp villages could be in one large level (similar graphics).
I don't know why you would want to have less detailed graphics (like in World of Warcraft) when you have an engine like that (screenshot!)? <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/winkwink.gif" alt="" />
But now on to my Whishlist...- It has to be Fun!
*edit* forgot that one <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/winkwink.gif" alt="" />- Interesting story that is also told in an interesting way.- Easy interface/camera.
good: Guild Wars, World of Warcraft;
bad: Never Winter Nights 2 (I stopped playing because of the bad camera control. The story and the dialogues were pretty good and kept me playing for quite some time before I realized how annoying the camera really is. I hope they fix this in a patch.)
- Lots of ingame cut scenes with voice over to tell the story, some quest advancement, special conditions like entering a new area for the first time, meeting a monster for the first time.
[Guild Wars does cut scenes pretty well in it's Missions.]
Imagine you walk into a cave... camera switches to the eyes of a monster watching you enter the cave... a roar as it jumps at you... and the camera switches back giving you back controll. (This would only be the first time you encounter this strong enemy or enter this cave.)
When you enter a city for the first time show a cut scene from a nearby hill showing the city glittering in the evening sun. Merchants standing in front of the city gates discussing with the guards. This would compensate a bit for the 'experience' you have in a seamless world when walking over a hill and seeing the big city before you. With the cut scene you have a bit more control over how you present the city to the player. (Sure, you can also do cut scenes in a seamless world... but they would have to fit to where the player is standing now, what time it is... <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/winkwink.gif" alt="" />)
- Interesting dialogues.
- NPC's with a personality. (Even more if they are party members.)
- No 'big' bugs. (Crashes, unable to complete/advance story or quests, ...)
- No 'annoyance' bugs. (Bad controls, bad path finding, getting stuck, )
- Choice of player advances the story or quest in different directions. The choice should matter. But it should not cut you off of large parts of gameplay. Maybe even different endings for the story.
e.g. army besieging a castle. You find a cave with a secret passage into the castle.
a) Sneak in and receive two quests "provide defenders with food and weapons" and "get help against the army"
You can get help straight away. But it will be harder to defeat the attackers since the defenders can't help.
You can first get and deliver food and weapons to the defenders (sneaking past the attacking army).
But you find out something about the defenders letting you wonder if it is a good idea to help them.
You can go ahead and still help them. This time defeating the attackers is easier since the defenders of the castle can come out and help you.
-> The defenders are grateful for you help. You have a new place to buy and sell items and receive a few quest from the inhabitants.
b) Tell the army commander about the secret passage and receive a quest "sneak in an open the gates".
Depending on whether you provided food and weapons to the defenders in the castle the fight is harder.
If the attacking army finds out you helped the defenders (quest to kill your contact person before he is captured by the attacking army) you have to justify yourself.
-> The attackers are more or less grateful for your help and offer slightly different quests.
-> Maybe a part of the castle is burned down. Visual difference to your decision you made.
Oh! I'm getting carried away a bit. <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> And I think I'm beginning to repeat myself. <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/winkwink.gif" alt="" />